You like Sicilian wine? Lava love? Then you’ve come to the right place. In 2012 I have put extra focus on Sicily, a region I just love and especially focusing on the Etna wines. There’s more to be found on the site’s Facebook page. For links, click the Follow Me tag to the right.
Are you following my Sicilian wine postings? Hating me for all the mentions on limited production wines? Maybe you shouldn’t read this then….
Tenuta delle Terre Nere is a big favorite of mine. Sure, some have questioned the oak treatment in the premium or single vineyard wines but then again one would, in advance, judge these impressively balanced wines before the oak has been allowed to integrate. You see, the wines do age well and the oak do settle. A perfect example of that is the white premium wine Le Vigne Niche, an Etna Bianco made solely using the Carricante grape. Although being aged both in oak and stainless steel, the wines shows an oaky creaminess in its youth. But with a few years of age, it’s all about steely acidity, minerals and smoke.
Le Vigne Niche is a small vineyard with its highest altitude at 1,000 meters above the sea-level. Niche actually meaning small in Sicilian dialect. Only around 200 cases are produced every year. The Carricante grape ripens late and with a naturally high acidity, it doesn’t call for an Einstein to figure out what then happens at volcanic soil on 700 to 1,000 meters above the sea level. The Le Vigne Niche is first vinified in steel tank before being transferred to ten hl casks where the wine also gets its malolactic fermentation. While in steel it also goes through some cold maceration.
Comparing two vintages – 2007 and 2008 Le Vigne Niche
The 2007 Le Vigne Niche reflects a cooler year very well. Beautiful color with a greenish rim. The nose is evolved with waxy scents, yellow fruits, lemon peel, smoke, green apples and oozing wet rocks. In the background just a slight floral feel reminding me of jasmine. The oak is integrated and only a hint of moist tobacco reveals it. On the palate it shows a herbal character with waxy scents, autumn honey, lemon, unripe peaches, green apples and humus. Evolved but yet with an acidity rocking and lots of fruit. Leaning towards the elegant side and finishing with a mineral driven aftertaste. Pretty perfect now but will without doubt keep stay in this mode for at least a year or two.
The 2008 is totally different in style, also reflecting the vintage conditions. 2008 was a warm year with excellent ripeness and more structure. The Le Vigne Niche demonstrates that with a more ripe nose with yellow fruits, peaches, lime and wet rocks. The oak adds vanilla and a slight scent of ground coffee. Orange blossom in the background. A classy nose. The palate just confirms what’s going on; impressive structure, a bit creamy and lots of ripe but still restrained fruit. Minerals, smoke and lime peel. Vanilla. Long, intense finale. This one obviosuly is in need of one to two more years of cellaring before it’s fully integrated.
Which wine one chooses may come down to preferences, but if vintage variation fascinates, and you want to learn how that affects the end result, then don’t miss any vintages of Le Vigne Niche. Buying only highly thought of years is well, boring?
The high altitude results in wines with great diversity and the late ripening grape means you need to stock lots of Losec at home when harvest time is closing in. Otherwise, don’t think of going in to wine business at Etna! Sometimes it is hard to believe that picking grapes on the northern slopes of Etna first starts in late October, sometimes in November as well. Carricante at almost 1,000 meters is simply nothing for cowards!